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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

John Caton of Benton Park Cafe, Part 2

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM

This is part two of Chrissy Wilmes' Chef's Choice profile of John Caton of Benton Park Cafe (1900 Arsenal Street, 314-771-7200). Part one can be found here. Part three, a recipe from Caton, is here.

John Caton and Jessica Lenzen, co-owners of Benton Park Cafe. - CHRISSY WILMES
  • Chrissy Wilmes
  • John Caton and Jessica Lenzen, co-owners of Benton Park Cafe.

Did your family cook when you were a child? Yes, and the rule at my house was if you cooked the meal, you did not have to clean up. So I was a fan of helping with the cooking part.

How old were you when you started cooking? Probably around eleven or twelve.

First cooking job? A small pizza and pasta place called Paesanos. This is where I met my business partner, Jessica.

Did you attend culinary school or college? I attended the University of Missouri, Columbia. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in the hotel and restaurant management program.

What do you eat? Pretty much anything. I am not a very picky eater, and I am a firm believer in trying everything at least once. Anything that is out of the ordinary or different I like to try, but you can never go wrong with some of mom's comfort foods.

What do you cook at home? I am a single guy with a roommate and three dogs. I honestly don't do a lot of cooking at home, but when I have guests over, I like to do somewhat traditional appetizers with some different styles to them.

What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own!)? Wow, that is a really tough question. There are so many great ones to choose from in St. Louis. I would break down three of my favorites like this: date night, Sidney Street Café; casual dining at a medium price, Frazer's; and quick but delicious, Blues City Deli.

The local chef who most impresses you? Chef Gerard Craft down at Niche does some amazing things with food. Not only has he been nationally recognized, but everyone I have talked to about their experience there has done nothing but rave about the food.

Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? I am not sure if it is because I am from the Midwest, but one of the first restaurants that comes to mind is Lambert's, home of the thrown roll, in Sikeston. Very traditional food, but the whole experience of the place really sets it apart from anywhere I have ever been. Oh yeah, and Booches in Columbia -- delicious burgers.

Your favorite food city? Without a doubt, NYC. There is no cuisine that you cannot find, and the amount of options there is almost limitless.

Favorite recent food find? Pho Grand. I know it has been around a while, but I went there with a vegan friend and ate vegan with her, and everything we had was amazing.

Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Eggs. We started as a breakfast-and-lunch place that served breakfast all day. Many of our signature dishes are egg based.

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